Liverpool summer signing Dominik Szoboszlai was used in an unusual role for Liverpool but it’s not the first time and he could give Jürgen Klopp another option to solve the club’s weak spot.
Szoboszlai found himself in essentially uncharted territory for Liverpool against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.
The Hungary international is a versatile player but he would not have expected to be used in the number six position just two games into his spell under Jürgen Klopp.
Forced into it by Alexis Mac Allister ‘s red (which has now been overturned), Szoboszlai did not look out of place in the new role, which brought with it a newfound dynamism.
Continuing to drive forward, if anything Szoboszlai became more dangerous playing from a deeper position. Nonetheless, speaking to M4 Sport after the game, Szoboszlai was not entirely satisfied with his performance.
“I’m never satisfied with myself, but I’m glad that I was able to deliver such a performance. I really don’t like to make mistakes and I can’t accept it. But considering it was my home debut and my second Premier League game, I’m mostly satisfied,” he said.
He then added: “I hope Marco Rossi [Hungarian NT manager] doesn’t hear this [on playing well in a deeper role] because he wants me to play the number six.
“Sometimes the boss [Klopp] had to tell me to relax and stay deeper because I was a six [after Mac Allister sending off] not an eight or a 10. So I had to watch out for that but fortunately, I had the energy to also go forward.”
Szoboszlai being used in a number six position is not as new nor as surprising as one may think. It’s a position that he has been put into while playing on international duty by Rossi, and one he has played as a youngster as well.
One of the most notable performances was against Italy in the Nations League last summer when Szoboszlai was put into a double pivot alongside Callum Styles away in Cesena.
It was only for the last 15 to 20 minutes of the game, but there were a lot of positives to take from that performance as well, just like his Man of the Match display against Bournemouth.
One of the best aspects about Szoboszlai being deeper is his ability to progress the ball with his movement and his passing.
In one instance here as demonstrated he is also very good at finding space and offering an option for his teammates in transitions.
In the below photo, Szoboszlai recognizes the space in the middle and immediately runs back to give an option for his teammates. As he drops back, he lays off a pass and Hungary is able to bring the ball out of their defensive third.
Other times he can bring the ball forward from such deeper areas with just his ball carrying.
He carried the ball forward from deep with the same purpose that we saw him make runs for Liverpool against Bournemouth on numerous occasions.
And then in the next picture, he runs between two players and draws a clever foul around the halfway line.
In that game overall, Szoboszlai put in a strong performance. Altogether, he drew two fouls, made three dribbles, and created three shooting opportunities for his teammates.
But he was also solid defensively making two tackles, winning five out of five aerial duels and making four recoveries as per Wyscout.
Ideally, because of his creativity and shooting, you want Szoboszlai closer to the opponent’s goal, but his tactical intelligence does mean he can play deeper as well.
For Hungary’s U17 side, he was often used as a holding midfielder in a double pivot, and was impressive in those outings as well helping Hungary qualify for the U17 European Championship.
For Red Bull Salzburg, when he first emerged onto the scene playing in the Alkass international Cup against the likes of Real Madrid in 2016, he was used in the same position, and again did not disappoint.
It’s not a long-term solution for Klopp, but Szoboszlai does give more tactical flexibility at Anfield, and perhaps Bournemouth was not the last time the Hungarian will have played a deeper role in a Liverpool shirt.
Based on his history having played as a holding midfielder in the past, it would not be a surprise to see him used in the position given Liverpool’s lack of options.